Research Project Information

Research Project Summary Information

Scale-up testing of a catalyst and process (FlexDS) for the oil refinery industry(ST10825-1)

Auterra Inc.


Auterra, Inc. (formerly known as Applied Nanoworks, Inc.) is a clean energy company specializing in catalyst and process technology. Nano-material manufacturing platforms and processes are very energy and capital intensive and make products that are too expensive and too difficult with which to work. Auterra has developed its patented Molecular Control Platform (MCP) process for inorganic material production. Auterra identified numerous potential uses for a variety of nano materials. One use is as a catalyst to remove contaminants, such as sulfur, nitrogen, trace metals and acidity, from crude oil. It is these contaminants that make refining the crude oil into high quality petroleum products more complex and expensive, and it takes large amounts of energy to convert crude oil into the products we use.

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Project Description

This project converted the Molecular Control Platform (MCP) batch process into a continuous manufacturing process. During initial phases of the project, Auterra discovered a very interesting use for the titanium molecule that is a game-changing catalyst and process, called FlexDS, for the oil refinery industry. FlexDS provides energy efficient technology for oil producers and refiners to improve the quality of their oil products. The process uses oxygen to remove sulfur from oil feed streams. In this project, Auterra has developed, tested and designed the scale-up of FlexDS production.


FlexDS is designed to replace an existing process at oil refineries that is very heat and pressure intensive and requires large amounts of energy. FlexDS is an oxygen desulfurization technology that provides significant energy saving benefits over current oil industry processes based on hydrogen desulfurization. Hydrogen-based processes require temperatures as high as 700°F and pressures as high as 3,000 psi. The FlexDS desulfurization catalyst reacts with oxygen using temperatures below the boiling point of water at normal atmospheric pressure, requiring far less energy in the process, and consequently emits much lower CO2 (estimated at over 50% less) than the competing process. Once FlexDS is completely developed and commercialized, it will save oil refineries an estimated 10% of their energy consumption through a more energy efficient oil upgrading process. The project will help lower CO2 emissions upwind from New York, lower energy consumption nationally, and increase jobs in New York since Auterra will continue to grow its operations in New York State. During the period of this project, Auterra grew from seven to thirteen employees, building the innovation economy in New York State. Once fully implemented, Auterra expects to be able to produce catalyst at 40 times faster than the previous process. Additionally, the scaling pathway for the catalyst to full production becomes a much lower risk topic as a result of these tests.

Project Results

Auterra has completed the initial scale-up of its FlexDS oil upgrading process, bringing catalyst manufacturing to production levels and building a continuous operation pilot unit. The new pilot unit can process five gallons of oil per day, demonstrating commercial viability. Auterra is now testing oil feed streams from around the world using this unit. This is the first step in a planned three phase commercialization process, which requires a pilot unit, a commercial demonstration unit, and then a commercial production partnership.


Auterra Inc.
2135 Technology Dr
Schenectady, NY 12308

Principle Investigator

Eric Burnett

Universities Involved


Project Type:

On-site Process Improvement

Technologies Types:


NYSERDA Contact Information

Miriam Pye


R&D - Mfg Tech & On-Site Pwr

Contract Details

Start Date: 1/11/2010
Project Status: Active
Contract Number: ST10825-1

Last Updated: 9/8/2014 4